Seeking a compromise with the House on a much-delayed transportation bill, Senate negotiators have proposed that the measure contain $290 billion in total guaranteed funding. That represents a $5-billion reduction from the version that the chamber passed in May, says Bill Holbrook, spokesman for the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. The new proposal is about $6 billion higher than the guaranteed funding in the House's $284-billion bill.T

The Senate made its proposal on June 20 to the House side of a joint conference committee formed to reconcile the chambers' differing version of the sweeping, multi-year transportation measure. As of mid-day June 21, the House conferees had not responded to the Senate offer, says Holbrook. He adds that the Senate side is "optimistic that we'll be able to have the legislation completed by the end of the month."

Since the last multi-year authorization, the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century, expired Sept. 30, 2003, federal highway and transit programs have been operating under a series of short extensions. The latest extension, the seventh in that series, lapses on June 30.

David Bauer, American Road & Transportation Builders Association senior vice president for government relations, says that the Senate offer "demonstrates that the political process is working, but where this is going to end up I don't think anybody can say with certainty."